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Subject: A Rose by any Other Name is...War! rss

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David Scolari
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Philadelphia
Pennsylvania
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So myself being only the ripe young age of 20, I never had the chance to play the original Kingmaker back in the 70s and 80s. My first introduction to Kingmaker was through the original computer version made in 1994 through Home of the Underdogs. I fell in love with the game on the computer and sought to find the original board game but only found it for hundred dollars or more, so I dropped my search until about a week ago when I found it on the BGG marketplace for $25.00 and snatched it up.

Last night 2 friends and I battled it out for the control of the English throne and below are my thoughts on the game (which is based upon the actual War of the Roses).

Components: Well this is the 2nd Edition of the game so it is about 20 years old; however, the components are high quality (for the 80s). The board is sturdy and has great artwork which made me feel like I was in ye olde England. The cards overall have okay artwork and are okay in terms of sturdiness (due to the oldness of the game all the cards were immediately put into card sleeves). The pieces used to represent armies and areas of control are made of solid cardboard and are easy to spot on the board. Overall components are of a good quality in terms of durability and playability.

Rules: There are basic rules, optional rules, and advanced rules. The basic rules are about 4-5 pages and are easy to understand with plenty of examples. The optional rules are about an additional 2-3 pages and the advanced rules are about 2-3 pages as well. Overall the basic rules, optional rules, and advanced rules are easy to understand and I would say after about 30 minutes of reading you will have a full understanding of the game. There are some ambiguities in the rules but nothing that can't be walked through and figured out using common sense.

Game play: So you got these easy rules and a nice board to play on, but how does the game play. Well the objective of the game is to capture one of the royal heirs of one of the major families in England and have them crowned king. In addition all rival royal heirs must be eliminated so that the heir that you control is the sole remaining heir left.

How do you do this? Well at the beginning of the game and after each turn you draw cards called Crown cards from a special deck. These cards either give you nobles (who are the basic "unit" of the game) Titles (such as "the Duke of Wales"), offices (such as the "Chancellor of England), towns, mercenaries, bishops and archbishops, and ships. Basically your nobles start out with a set number of troops. However the number of troops they have is not very large. So to improve your noble's army you give him titles, offices, mercenaries, and religious clerics. All of these things have additional troops attached to them (for example, the Marshal of England (an office) has a hundred troops attached to the office. So if you give one of your nobles, let's says someone who starts out with only 20 troops, the office of Marshal of England, that noble will now have 120 troops rather than just 20.). You then use your nobles’ armies to attack other factions out in the field or in towns or castles.

Combat is unique in that it is not really luck driven. When two armies meet out in the open field, both armies tally up their strength and consult a combat table in the back of the manual. The combat table gives the stronger army a ratio. The players then draws an event card (more on those in a little bit). Most event cards have a number ratio on them. If the ratio on the card is less than or equal to the ratio that was given to the stronger player in the combat table, the stronger player wins and captures the nobles of the opposing army (and can then execute them or ransom them back to the losing faction for towns, titles, offices, etc…). If the ratio on the event card is larger than the ratio given to the stronger player on the combat table, the battle is considered indecisive and no nobles are captured. However there is a twist. Each event card in addition to having a ratio on it also has one or more nobles listed on the cards. Should any of these nobles be participating in the current battle, they are killed, their army returned to the Crown deck and their offices put in the Chancery deck. Sieges of towns and castles are similar to battles, but the attacking force need only have an army that is equal to or greater than the garrison to get an automatic win. However, an event card is drawn to determine if any noble is killed (which happened in the game yesterday, all of my nobles in the attacking force were on the event card so even though I took the castle that I wanted, I lost the entire attacking force).

My Thoughts on Combat: I really like the combat system. It is easy to understand unlike some complex wargames but also avoids dice fests where a far inferior force can take defeat a large overwhelming force due to some lucky die rolls. The fact that your nobles can be killed in battle due to the drawing of the event card ensure that even the strongest and most powerful armies will attack in moderation which keeps the game balance.

Another key aspect of the game is event cards. These cards are drawn before each player’s turn and cause a variety of things to happen. Some of them are bad, such as plague cards which kill off nobles and heirs in certain towns if they are occupying the town at that time. Other cards call your nobles away to other parts of England to deal with revolts or other problems in the realm (which can be bad as your once safe army that was fortified up in a massive fortress surrounded by other armies and fortresses can find itself exposed in the middle of enemy territory (or can put your enemies in the middle of your territory!).

My Thoughts on Event Cards: Overall I like the event cards because they add a nice layer of unpredictability and tension (good) to the game as your carefully laid plans can be torn asunder by card that calls your armies across the map, or forces your crowned royal heir to enemy territories.

The final major aspect of the game is Parliament. Basically offices that are lost due to nobles dying don’t get recycled back in the Crown deck (which contains dead nobles, titles, mercenaries, bishops, and ships that will eventually be reshuffled (players pick a crown card after their turn is over which basically makes the crown deck your reinforcements for the turn)). They go to the Chancery where they remain until either the sole king or the Chancellor of England (an office) calls Parliament. In the basic rules, the faction that calls Parliament issues the offices in the Chancery to other nobles (to either his faction or another faction.). Thus a player can give his faction really good offices while giving the other factions the not so good ones. In the optional rules, the various factions must give majority consent to the assignment of offices making for much more wheeling and dealing.

My Thoughts on Parliament: While in our game yesterday, Parliament was never called (as the Chancellor of England got put in the Chancery early on and then there were two kings so no one could call Parliament) all us who played agreed that Parliament would a great dynamic to the game as it would increase interaction between factions and thereby more wheeling and dealing.

My Final Thoughts:
Overall Kingmaker is great game. The components are of good quality and the rules are easy to learn and comprehend. The combination of military and political aspects of the game along with its historical theme makes this one of my favorite games and one definitely worth buying if you can find it.


*Edited Spelling Error*
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Stefano Sorbara
Italy
Venaria Reale
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Thank you David, you brought new interest in this old gem to me. Still waiting to gather some willing friends and give it a try.
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David Dawn
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Monroe
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Now you should be in search of the Kingmaker Variant Events cards and rules. They make a great game even better! The occaisionaly pop up here at the BGG Marketplace for around $20. Until you can pick them up if your game came with some blank event cards I can send you the info on the variants. Let me know by geekmail and I will need a non BGG email address to send them to.

Long Live Kingmaker!
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Wendell
United States
Twin Cities
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Glad that dog of a computer game didn't dissuade you from trying the excellent BOARD game Kingmaker!
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David Scolari
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Philadelphia
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Yeah the computer AI was not exactly the best in that game, During one memorable game on the computer I controlled one of two heirs left. The other heir was in a central location on the board that 4 other computer players could reach. So each turn one computer player would take the heir, only to have that heir taken from them by the next computer player. The crown cards that the computer players got gave them nobles that were in range on the second heir and so the computer basically played musical heir for several rounds until I finally took a large army wiped everyone out and killed the last opposing heir. but it was fun nonetheless. Anyways, I definitely looking foward to playing this game again.

I know the variant cards are posted here on BGG (at I think they are the cards), Any suggestions on which ones to use?
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David Dawn
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Monroe
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WindowsMEXP wrote:
I know the variant cards are posted here on BGG (at I think they are the cards), Any suggestions on which ones to use?


Don't know how I missed this back then must have mistakenly hit "Mark as Read". I'm going to check my current card deck and then update this entry. I'm sure by now you already have your own preferences but I'll memorialize my thoughts here any way!

If you stumble back upon this thread, you could list your thoughts as well.
 
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Richard Smith
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Coquitlam
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I don't see how you can say that the combat system is not luck driven. The various odds of the cards are divided up in to 6 categories with each odds ratio happening about 1/6 of the time. How is the card draw different from saying you need to roll a 1 or less to win with a majority force, a 2 or less to win with a 5:4 force ratio, ... , and a 6 or less to win with a 4 to 1 force ratio?

If you play the more interesting advanced combat system, there is more luck as you are rolling for nobles killed each encounter.

I agree with the rest of your review, but I see little difference between the KM combat system and the old Avalon Hill 1d6 combat result table. With the Nobles Killed list, you can even get an exchange result.

Warm regards, Rick.
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